Anne Preston, a junior double-major in geography and urban studies and environmental studies, is the first Temple student to be named both a Truman and Udall scholar
Talk about a good week. In the space of 148 hours, Temple junior Anne Preston — a junior double-major in geography and urban studies and environmental studies from Silver Spring, Md. — learned that she had won not one, but two of the nation's most prestigious and competitive national scholarships.
On Wednesday, March 28, Preston was notified by President Ann Weaver Hart that she was one of only 54 students nationwide to be named a 2012 Truman Scholar by the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation in recognition of her "leadership accomplishments and…likelihood of becoming a public service leader." Five days later, the Udall Foundation announced that Preston was one of 80 students across the nation to be selected as a 2012 Udall Scholar on the basis of her commitment to a career in the environment, her leadership potential and her academic achievement. (Temple student Yuan Huang also earned a Udall Scholarship — see sidebar.)
Preston is the fifth Temple student to win a Truman Scholarship. No Temple student has ever won both a Truman and a Udall.
Both scholarships recognized Preston's work — both scholarly and with hands to soil — on community-based urban farming in Philadelphia. Preston runs a one-acre farm that she built as a freshman for the nonprofit Urban Tree Connection on a vacant lot in Haddington, a low-income West Philadelphia neighborhood. Her farm produces thousands of pounds of fresh vegetables annually while engaging children, teenagers and adults in the community in all aspects of production, distribution and management.
"I'm interested in working solutions to concentrated poverty, food access and re-entry employment," Preston said. "A lot of people think the idea of urban gardens is nice and pretty, but it's harder to convince people that it's a powerful agent of change in the city. I see what we're doing with urban farming as something that can be a part of community-led revitalization in cities around the world."
With a growing staff and a coalition of supportive community members, Preston's farm fed more than 50 families this year. But that success didn't come easily. Although the farm produced more than a ton of greens, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and eggplants in its first year, she said its neighbors "didn't line up to eat the bounty" at first. To engage the surrounding community, she held free cooking classes in conjunction with Whole Foods to develop recipes using the farm's products, built a relationship with a nearby church, canvassed the neighborhood, developed a gardening club, ran an after-school program for schoolchildren and recruited interns and employees, including several ex-offenders.
Ruth Ost, director of Temple's Honors Program, called Preston "an idealist with a pragmatic streak."
"With Annie in charge, the Urban Tree Connection did shrewd fair trade, and was able to give away produce as well," Ost said.
Preston hopes to use the scholarship funds (a combined $35,000), the networking and the knowledge she gains from both the Truman and Udall experiences to fund her graduate education — she hopes to pursue master's degrees in business administration and social work — and eventually fuel her vision for urban farming's future around the world.
"I'm really hoping to work to develop an urban producers' cooperative in Philadelphia that would be able to aggregate produce from community gardens," she said. "For example, there are a lot of Philly producers who make peanut butter and jam, but getting them to market is more of a challenge. I'm hoping to pursue an MBA to get skills to develop that on a city-wide scale. If we're successful in Philly, I see that as a model we can develop elsewhere."
Preston’s unprecedented double-win — or "Trudall," as Ost calls it — is symbolic of a recent surge in the number of Temple students earning prestigious and competitive national scholarships. For example, in the last five academic years, Temple students have won two Trumans, seven Udalls, three Marshalls and 20 Fulbrights — far more such awards than Temple students won in the previous decades combined..